1492 – 1734 Early Encounters Dutch Colonies

Key Ideas

1. Women were an integral part of the daily life, culture, and success of New Netherland.

2. Dutch women participated in colonial politics and trade.

3. Free and enslaved black women in New Netherland had to navigate a challenging and often unclear set of social mores and legal boundaries.

4. Native women played a proactive role in tribal responses to Dutch colonization.

Introduction

Nicholas Jansz Visscher. Novi Belgii noaeque Angliae nec non partic Virginiae tabula multi in locis emendata, 1682 after 1655. New-York Historical Society Library.

Women in the Dutch Colonies, 1624–1715

The government of the Dutch Republic granted the Dutch West India Company a monopoly over all Dutch trade in the Americas in 1621.

This was the beginning of an organized Dutch effort to establish colonies and trading posts in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. These new colonies were to be part of the larger Dutch trading empire, which had trading posts throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. The money made from global trade funded the outpouring of creativity and scientific discovery that characterized the Dutch Golden Age.

During this time of growth, the colony of New Netherland was born. Under the direct control of the Dutch West India Company, the New Netherland territory covered most of present day New York State, as well as parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware. From its foundation in 1624 to its surrender to the English in 1664, the business of New Netherland was business. Traders in New Netherland exchanged European goods for beaver fur with local Native people. Traders also bought and sold other natural resources that could be used in other parts of the empire. The Atlantic slave trade was central to the economy and development of the colony.

Section Essential Questions

1. What were the rights and responsibilities of women in colonial Dutch society?

2. How did race, class, and social differences affect the lives of the women in New Netherland?

3. How did women contribute to the establishment of the economy, society, politics, and culture in New Netherland?

4. What gender-specific challenges did women face in the Dutch colonies?

Resources

These three documents chronicle the efforts of enslaved woman Mayken van Angola to secure her freedom from the Dutch West India Company after thirty-four years of servitude.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, manumission, free black communities, life in New Netherland, politics and government
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In this document, the Dutch government awards Sarah Roelfs Kierstede van Borsum a land grant in recognition of her services as a translator in meetings with the Lenni-Lenape.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
women in government, Native American history, legal status of men and women, interaction between native people and colonists, colonial government
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This beautiful painting demonstrates the wealth, power, and extent of the trade network of the Dutch Republic in the 1600s.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial trade, European imperialism, art history, Dutch Golden Age, natural resources of the Americas
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This document recounts how two wives of New Amsterdam councilmembers opened negotiations with English invaders in 1664.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
New Netherland, women in government, the transition from Dutch to English rule, colonial governments
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The cradleboard and loopwagen allowed Oneida and Dutch women to work while still keeping their children safe and close by. They symbolize the double duty all mothers in the early colonial period had to do.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Dutch daily life, Oneida daily life, childhood, motherhood, women's labor
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This document illuminates the way the Dutch Orphanmasters' Court protected the inheritance rights of young women, and one mother's attempt to keep them from meddling in her affairs.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
life in New Netherland, legal status of men and women, childhood, colonial governments, women and the legal system, marriage and inheritance rights
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One of New Netherland's first settlers recounts her earliest memories of life in the colony.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
New Netherland, immigration, colonial trade, New Amsterdam, interactions between Native people and colonists
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Life Stories

This is the story of a well-born Dutch woman who became a powerful businessperson in New Netherland.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
trade, legal status of men and women, Dutch daily life, women’s work, marriage and inheritance rights
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This is the story of a Montaukett sunksquaw who manipulated the colonial powers around her to solidify her status and her people’s security.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Native American history, Montaukett cultural practices, Native response to European colonization, differences in social and cultural practices between Native communities and European colonizers
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This is the story of a free black orphan who ran afoul of the courts in New Amsterdam and was ultimately enslaved.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, free black communities, life in New Netherland, childhood, women and the legal system
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The story of the first woman to make a journey to the Americas for scientific purposes and one of the leading entomologists of the Enlightenment.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
The Enlightenment, women’s work, art history, history of science, women in STEM
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The story of the first woman to make a journey to the Americas for scientific purposes and one of the leading entomologists of the Enlightenment.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
women religious leaders, Anabaptists, New Netherland, New England, immigration, interactions between Native people and colonists
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The story of a woman who navigated social and legal customs to gain freedom from slavery for herself and her family.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, manumission, free black communities, life in New Netherland, politics and government
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